The vinok, the traditional flower wreath, occupies a special place in Ukrainian culture. Flower crowns exist in many countries (and has recently become a staple of global festival fashion – for better or worse), but the Ukrainian version is probably one of the most instantly identifiable. Adorned with colourful ribbons, the vinok is a voluminous arrangement of fresh flowers — often wild ones, like camomiles, poppies or cornflowers — which dates back to ancient times but has survived through the centuries to become a part of Ukrainian pop culture. For Dazed Beauty, photographic duo Kristina Podobed and Genia Volkov have reinvented the traditional headdress for the new generation.
Traditionally, flower wreaths were worn by unmarried young women and came to symbolise youth, love and beauty. On the Slavic holiday of Kupala Night, which marks the Summer solstice, flower wreaths are thrown in the lake as a way of fortune telling for future marriage.
“The vinok for me is a very powerful symbol of Ukraine, which never gets old,” Kristina adds. “It is a very feminine topic and has interested me for a long time. At school, we used to have performances when one had to wear a traditional Ukrainian costume, and girls wore wreaths. Each girl had a different one, and it could even be a source of envy.”
As part of a traditional Ukrainian costume, the vinok is widely cited and reproduced down to cheap plastic versions bought and sold all over the country. But its wild and natural beauty has recently had a resurgence, thanks to the young generation’s interest in Ukrainian heritage. Following the revolution of 2014, the vinok has become one of the symbols reinvented in the search for new expressions of national identity – alongside the traditional embroidered shirt vyshyvanka and Ukrainian flag (particularly present in the radical work of fashion designer Anton Belinskiy).
“We are very interested in the cultural and religious heritage of our forebears and the territory where were born and live,” Genia and Kristina add. Their take on the vinok is part of the broader research into Ukrainian culture.
Photography: Genia Volkov and Kristina Podobed Set design: Sasha Plavinska Model: Rostok Smirnov